The last week

After many years in a variety of educational positions, for the last five years, my retirement job has been in an elementary school as an instructional assistant in a pre-k through second grade school in Downers Grove. For them, this is their last week before summer break, so they are excited and the week has been filled with extra activities to celebrate moving on to the next grade. As I lovingly watch them learn and grow, I can’t help but think about the week in Uvalde, Texas which we will never forget. The horrific mass shooting occurred when an 18-year old with an assault weapon murdered 19 children and two teachers in their elementary school classroom while injuring more than a dozen others. It fills me with an overwhelming sadness, grief for those lost in Texas, and fear.

What???? Another school shooting??? Not again, and it can happen anywhere, including the suburb of Downers Grove though administration throughout the suburbs are taking the right action. A school resource office should be in every school building. All outside doors are locked and some schools require scanners as people walk through the doors. All visitors must present a government issued photo ID. Safety drills are conducted at each of our schools throughout the year, and staff receive training on how to respond in crisis situations. Whatever it takes to keep children safe.

There is one argument after another about gun laws. My concern is have the recourses to handle mental health issues and drug addiction. According to Impact Dupage, behavioral health continues to be a chief concern in DuPage County. Addressing behavioral health requires attention to substance use disorders as well as mental health. According to sources, the opioid epidemic in Illinois continues to manifest in multiple ways that include historically high rates of overdoses and overdose-related fatalities. Children and families need more resources for counseling they can afford and even more social workers at schools that can get a handle on the issues going on with a child.

There is always something positive that develops from tragedy. Maybe one mother will become sober for life and maybe one father will suggest counseling for his family. Maybe one grandmother will spend more time with their grandchildren, maybe one couple will recognize the love of their life. Maybe one teacher will give their children more hugs, maybe one parent will hug their child a little tighter. Maybe one person will finally honor another without complaint, maybe one company will offer a product at no cost for those that struggle. Maybe we will demonstrate more respect for our teachers, administration and staff at school. Maybe one more person will believe in God because there are truly more angels in heaven than ever before.

As we pray for the grief of the families and friends related to the following:

  • Eva Mireles, 44
  • Irma Garcia, 48
  • Xavier Lopez, 10
  • Uziyah Garcia, 9
  • Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, 10
  • Jose Flores, 10
  • Tess Mata, 10
  • Amerie Jo Garza, 10
  • Jayce Luevanos, 10
  • Jailah Nicole Silguero, 10
  • Miranda Mathis, 11
  • Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, 10
  • Jackie Cazares, 10
  • Ellie Garcia, 10
  • Alithia Ramirez, 10
  • Rojelio Torres, 10 
  • Makenna Lee Elrod, 10
  • Nevaeh Bravo, 10
  • Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, 10
  • Eliahana ‘Elijah’ Cruz Torres, 10
  • Layla Salazar, 10

God bless you all!

Chicago History Museum

The first time I visited the Chicago Historical Society, which is now the Chicago Museum, was the day after the death of John F. Kennedy. It was a field trip planned in advance with friends to celebrate my 9th birthday that my Mom did not want to cancel. After arriving, I remember seeing the bed that Abraham Lincoln died in and also seeing different guns representing the Union and Confederate Armies. It was a somber event, for many of us kept thinking about the irony of this trip after the recent assassination of our President John F. Kennedy who was also shot in the head in on Friday, November 22, 1963. My actual birthday was on the Thursday, the 21st, though we planned to celebrate on Saturday, November 23rd since we were off of school. Taking my own little ones, to the museum in the 1990’s, they, too, were fascinated with the gun collection, and Lincolns bed, but also loved the clothing that Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln wore on the evening of the assassination. We also enjoyed the beautiful historical paintings and dioramas throughout the building. Learning more about the true Chicago Fire was another interest that sparked our attention.

The museum has been located in Lincoln Park since the 1930s at 1601 North Clark Street at the intersection of North Avenue in the Old Town Triangle neighborhood. The CHS adopted the name, Chicago History Museum, in September 2006 for its public presence. Later that year, the museum celebrated a grand reopening, unveiling a dramatic new lobby and redesigned exhibition spaces. Signature exhibitions such as Chicago: Crossroads of America and Sensing Chicago debuted, while an old favorite, Imagining Chicago: The Dioramas, was restored and updated.

Today, the Chicago History Museum, Stephen Burrows, Scotty Piper, Patrick Kelly, Willi Smith, and Barbara Bates—five stories within the folds of fashion. The clothing we wear and the styles we embrace often reveal what we value and what we aspire to, ultimately helping us understand ourselves and the world in which we live. The clothing collection consists of more than 50,000 pieces, ten never-been-exhibited ensembles were selected to tell the remarkable stories of these five designers. Vivian Maier was an extraordinary photographer who took pictures of real life and many on the streets of Chicago. Maier died before her life’s work was shared with the world. She left behind hundreds of prints, 100,000 negatives, and about a thousand rolls of undeveloped film, which were discovered when a collector purchased the contents of her storage lockers.

Remembering Dr. King: 1929–1968 invites visitors to walk through a winding gallery that features over 25 photographs depicting key moments in Dr. King’s work and the Civil Rights movement. And there is much more to the museum, that includes a variety of programs, publications, temporary exhibits, and online resources such as virtual fieldtrips, on-site fieldtrips and you can host an event. The museum offers a great gift shop with wonderful historical and fictional books about the city. You can also purchase kids’ books that offer a solid look at American history. You can buy apparel as well home goods.

What ever happened to sky blue?

One day, some of the kindergarten students were drawing a hopscotch game on the playground. When you get to the giant circle that was the number 10, somebody said they thought you died and went to heaven. No…I had to correct them even though now there are tons of different rules and regs for hopscotch. When you reach the circle, you yell “sky blue”. I don’t know about others, but when I am reminded of this game, the only words I can think of is SKY BLUE. But the children of today did not buy it. That is a memory that is so clear on a beautiful day. In front of my house on the south side of Chicago in the 1960’s. It was just like yesterday remembering my Mom standing in the picture window just watching me trying to draw the game in front of our house when I was real little. But it didn’t take a phone call for other friends on the block to come out and help. Somehow, they just appeared; probably watching from their own windows. It was those creases between sidewalk slabs that made it difficult. My older friends really helped me. Once completed, we all played together.

An ancient form of hopscotch was played by Roman children in the 17th century. The original courts were much longer. There are many other forms of hopscotch played across the globe. And in some games, sky blue becomes plum pudding or cat’s cradle according to the English.

You can make a cardboard game for indoor fun,and by doing so in the example, you actually separate the letters with longer spaces in between to help build coordination and fun. Its a wonderful way to learn how to hop on one foot or two which is exactly what kindergarten students are learning in physical education classes. You can actually purchase indoor hopscotch games.  Learning Carpets 79” by 26” Hopscotch Play Carpet is available on Amazon in different patterns. No chalk required! Toss a stone, coin, or bean bag and hop your way through the numerical maze.

Moms from the district came out to actually permanently paint a hopscotch on our playground,,,, number 10 as the last number. As a playground supervisor, I am going to just blow my whistle and yell “sky blue” as the children proceed, whether they like it or not!

Shopping on East 87th Street/Chicago

In junior high school at Warren in the late 1960’s, my friends and I were allowed to walk to 87th street for a Saturday of shopping and lunch between Jeffrey Ave and Stony Island Ave. My home was located at 91st and Phillips; a good mile from the area though we would pass through Stony Island Park which is now known as the Jesse Owen Park. Across the park was Chicago Vocational School, an award winning school, which is now fading, in need of students and in disrepair; hoping to receive enough votes for historic status. At 2014 East 87th street was Leslie’s Restaurant, a popular place for many who attended CVS. My friends and I would continue to travel west on 87th. I remember first approaching Kims Rexall Drugstore at 87th and Bennett. One of my neighbors was a pharmacist there for a few years and filled prescriptions for my family. One of the next establishments was a three story building on the left which had to do with ATT/Illinois Bell at the time. The next building was Monarch/Perusso cleaners at 87th and Cregier. It was a beautiful building with floor to ceiling windows and a neat multi-colored brick post. Back in the 1960’s, cleaners were more necessary than ever since so much was dry clean only.

We always ate at Seaways for breakfast. We also ate at Thomas’s restaurant which is still there at 1657 East 87th. Tom Thomas shares his story that his father opened the restaurant in 1958. Many loved their breakfast but I liked Markons on Jeffrey, where I went for a chocolate phosphate and hamburger. There was a very popular Gossage Grill on the corner of 87st and Stony Island back in the 1960’s and had counter service only…more for the drugstore next door but the best burgers. For clothes shopping, we would visit Totville and my memory now becomes confused since I am not sure of the location and there was record store called Mr. T’s.

As early as 1951, 87th Street had little business; just beginning to prosper. Buses replaced street cars courtesy of Dan Ryan Jr. who was a member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. He served on the Roads and Bridges committee. He was a businessman and lawyer who passed away in 1961 and of course, the Dan Ryan Expressway was named after him. He ran for Mayor and Governor at one point. His father, Daniel Ryan Sr., was a Chicago politician who eventually rose to become President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners

Today, Thomas’s restaurant is still open. Walgreens, may have been Woolworths, is located at 87th and Stony Island Ave which I am not sure how long it has been there. New millenium stores include Essential Elements Boutique at 1640 East and Maxine’s Boutique at 1613.

Pretty soon you will hear them prancing!

She found the book a few days ago; sharing her memory as well as my own. Twenty one years ago, my daughter wrote a Christmas poem, given to her teacher at Indian Trail school in Downers Grove to be submitted to the Anthology of Poetry since she loved writing. Though at times, I wonder if it was me more excited about my love of writing; guiding her my way. However, both of us strongly remember sitting on the bed working and I think there was a great deal of time spent at dining room table where arts, crafts and homework always took precedence.  I, too, had published in poetry anthologies and now they were looking for young writers. If hard to read in the picture, the copy of the poem is written in this article.

The poem was accepted in the 2001 addition. The editors accepted the poems in their format and punctuation; extending a warm thank you to those they selected as well as expecting great things from them in the future. Just being able to spend a wonderful time with my daughter then and appreciating her love now is what I call a great things in the future that the editor had hoped for all who had been published in the book.

Anthology of Poetry still exists since their first publication in 1990. Working with elementary, middle school and high school teachers throughout the United States, the AOP offers a professional forum for students’ poems and short stories. They also engage teachers in the selection process for our Teacher’s Selection anthologies. We recognize how challenging it is to develop a love for reading and writing in students when there are many distractions and few tools.

Christmas

Hang the stockings

Trim the tree

Make snowman cute as can be

Watch the snowflakes fall to the ground

Grab your boots and let’s run around

Drink hot chocolate from a Christmas cup

Build a fire to warm you up

Check the sky for Santa’s sleigh

He sure won’t be far away

Very soon you’ll hear them prancing

Santa’s reindeer will be dancing

The time has come for you to hear

Santa Claus’ jolly old cheer

You leave your room to sneak some peeks

At the man with the big red rosy cheeks

He piles packages under the tree

And turns around to smile at me

Then we go to find a treat

And we both sit down to drink and eat

When he is ready to leave I go to bed

And out of my window I see his fabulous sled

From high in the sky he waves goodbye

Until next year comes for my friends and I!

Legacy of bookmarks

I was attending a meeting with other assistants and teachers in our southwest suburban school district that contains three schools. As soon as I walked in a mother who now works in the district flags me down with her son beside her who is now in fifth grade. It took me only a brief minute but she said,” Do you remember my son? “I remembered him in kindergarten; a delightful boy who was a joy to work with and now a fan of the Greenbay Packers, like me. “He still uses all the bookmarks you made for him and he nods with pride,” she said.

The bookmarks???? Five years ago, it began….before the pandemic. When I started making bookmarks to celebrate all holidays in our school building. The school hosts kindergarten-2nd grade while the two other schools supported 3rd-5th and 6th -8th.  First, I began making them for the classroom I was in which was usually kindergarten and would try to personalize each with their name. Then, I would create a bookmark of something they enjoyed such as a unicorn which I distinctly remembering how popular. It also depended on the time of year or holiday.

They were three-dimensional in some way whether it be fancy heart stickers for Valentine’s Day or the great snowman with delicate snowflakes for winter break. And everybody usually got their favorite colors if my memory served me well. Sometimes if I was really in the mood, bookmarks would have an original saying such as follow your heart for Valentines Day.

After my first attempts, I would have the occasional student from another class ask if I had a book mark and so it began. I started making more….just in case. And for many that would go on to the next grade, my bookmarks followed. They would see me in the hallway and ask if I was still making them for my current students. I always had extras… given with approval. They knew where to find me. Again, never missing a student who needed that bookmark for their favorite book.

Last year, I did create bookmarks at the end of the year for a first grade class. Each in a plastic bag with a glow worm necklace following pandemic rules. They weren’t impressed. I had lost my touch with few stickers and variety. No, there is a difference in maturity levels in first grade.

I am helping in the kindergarten and have not made one this year. Maybe after the beautiful message from the fifth grader, following my heart and God, my latest bookmark beginnings will celebrate the upcoming holidays with the best snowman art I can create. But again, that is not what they like. It is just creating something handmade which is special to them even if it lacks variety. This is their first year of school and generally they are just more accepting of mistakes; trying our best, forgetting all the rest. Forging ahead with patience and love this Thanksgiving break…….the bookmarks are almost done.

The wonderful world of untapped innocence in the classroom

One kindergarten student was visiting a classroom and having such a terrible moment in class that within five minutes of him crying, two other kindergarten children gave him their special classroom rewards they had just received from their teacher.

For the last 40 days of school, a first grade student always makes sure the special needs child is securely sitting in their carrier seat on the bus and and tries to cheer him if he is having sad day.

Julie always helps five-year old Amanda on the playground when swinging on swings or going down the slide just to make sure she is having fun safely.

Five year old John helped another another boy, Tom, who was angry, pick up blocks that he had thrown so that Tom would have a better day.

Seven -year old Mary made a special picture for her friend that is very sick and was not instructed to do so. This gesture was created during indoor recess at school.

One boy always makes sure a friend that is new to school finds the right classroom he is in everyday.

Mira always asks another to play with her at recess or when they have a break because the other one feels left out.

Robert struggles with assignments but will sit and concentrate for a long time reading The Pigeon has to Go to School and many of the Mo Willems books as a special treat with his teacher.

A second grade student, Elisa shared her favorite book patiently with a first grader and helped her improve her reading, reading some words for her and sounding out others. She asked if she could help her in the future if she needed assistance.

Sheri McCabe, fourth grade instructional assistant, made a great Wonder Wall last year for a student she was working with and learned about the teaching idea from others on the Internet. She wanted to use it again so she put it in the room she is working in this year. She told the class about. Whenever they have a question about something they wonder about, they can put the questions on a post it and put it on the wonder wall and they will discuss them once a week. Sheri went back to the class a couple hours later and all these post it’s were up on the wall. Here are the questions they asked: How does it feel to be blind? I wonder how a rocket blasts off? Why is there school? Who made books? How do you drive a car? How is candy made? Do plants fart?

It doesn’t get much better than this. God bless them all!!!

I

Songs still played in kindergarten

Working with students in kindergarten, it continues to amaze me how they are mesmerized listening to the same songs like I did in kindergarten over 60 years ago. And my own children reacted the same when they were little; 3+ decades earlier. One day I watched one little guy work on his ipad to the sounds of Go Tell It On The Mountain, Skip, Skip, Skip, To My Lou, Are You Sleeping, Brother John, also known as( Fre er Jac Que). I learned the French version of Brother John in third grade. Do You Know The Muffin Man, and B-i-n-go, B-i-n-go, B-i-n-g-o, and Bingo was his name…..O, more of the past. I thought that was it….done… until the teacher put on the video of the famous all-time children’s song Wheels On The Bus and he couldn’t stop singing….neither could I. The music we sang when learning the ABC’s is another melody where everything stops and they listen to the classic creative music. We play that every day just before we leave for home; a celebration song earned for a good day.

Go Tell It On the Mountain is a Christmas carol as its original lyrics celebrate the Nativity of Jesus: Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born. An alternate final line omits the reference to the birth of Christ, instead declaring that “Jesus Christ is Lord”. This is popular with Cedarmount kids who released a music series in the 1990’s. Skip to my Lou was a song produced in 1844 and was recorded by Judy Garland in the movie Meet Me in St Louis. BeeCeeDee is a popular You Tube channel for kids with entertaining vidoes of the old music and nursery rhymes with over 2 million followers. Are you sleeping…..is another video that you can’t stop listening to as well as watching.

Do you Know the Muffin Man was a traditional nursery rhyme for the Baby Boomer generation but back then it ended with the guy who lived on Drury Lane since the song originated in London. This was a street where fresh foods delivered, such as muffins, which were delivered door-to-door by a vendor known as a muffin man. The “muffin” in question was the bread item known as an English muffin, not the typically sweeter U.S. variety of muffin. Drury Lane is still a thoroughfare bordering Covent Garden in London. You Tube, once again, has transformed the song into a creative video with cartoon characters that also introduces the Ice Cream Man and the Fruit Stand Man!

Bingo was a folk song created as early as 1780 and has been transformed in a number of ways for children. Again, a Barney video created in 2004 with the Bingo song as well as number of videos that include the Muffin songs, the Countdown Kids, The Countdown Singers, the Little Series and Debbie Doo. “The Wheels on the Bus” is a traditional American folk song from the 1930’s written by Verna Hills in Boston, MA. The song is based on the traditional nursery rhyme “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush ” sharing the same tune. It was a popular for teachers to share in the 1950’s and has been translated into several languages. The YouTube video by Cocomelon is the one our school children delight over but YouTube provides many animated rhymes.

The ABC song is the same melody we learned as we watch the video by Cocomelon and as she writes the letters on a green chalk board just like ours and our children. The song was first copyrighted in 1835 by the Boston-based music publisher Charles Bradlee, and given the title “The A.B.C., a German air with variations for the flute with an easy accompaniment for the piano. Music done well never dies.

Tootsie Roll

As a child, I received a lot of Tootsie Rolls at Halloween, trick and treating. They were bought in bulk so parents could hand out several. Though I liked the Tootsie Pop the best. Per parents permission, I passed Tootsie Pops out to kindergarten students this year and was surprised how much they loved them. An old product continues to provide new flavor and excitement. Growing up in the 1950’s, Tootsie Roll sponsored children’s programs while many of us remember their commercials. Manufactured in New York in 1896 by Leo Hirshfield, the now Chicago-based company has grown to become one of the country’s largest candy companies. In 1931, Sweets Corp. which owned Tootsie Roll, extended the line with the Tootsie Pop, a Tootsie Roll center coated with a hard-candy shell on a lollipop stick. The company struggled during the Great Depression in New York. However, finally came to Chicago.

According to Dining Chicago, in 1966, Sweets Corp. changed its name to Tootsie Roll Industries and opened the Chicago plant at 7401 S. Cicero Ave. that is now its headquarters. Melvin Gordon, CEO for several decades and who passed away in 2015 at 95 believed in hiring Chicagoan’s and kept the headquarters here for that reason. I knew several who worked for the company that offered great benefits. His wife worked by side with him, married for 65 years and was CEO.

The company also operates factories in four other states, plus Mexico and Canada. The manufacturer claims to produce more than 64 million Tootsie Rolls. Tootsie brands include: Tootsie Roll, Tootsie Pop, Charms Blow Pop, Mason Dots, Andes, Sugar Daddy, Charleston Chew, Dubble Bubble, Razzles, Caramel Apple Pop, Junior Mints, Cella’s Chocolate-Covered Cherries, and Nik-L-Nip.

Number 23 and telephone exchanges

During school one day, I sat with kindergarten students watching the teacher talk about numbers and I heard the number 23. And after that, I was gone into my own special memory of the number that was assigned to me during my own kindergarten days. All I could think about was that 23. I was number 23. Even without looking for the number among my own memorabilia, number 23 has been emblazoned deeply in my mind since kindergarten just like my Baby Boomer phone number too. Essex 5- 5930 or dialed as Es 5-5930. Essex was a street located in the South side of Chicago.We had to proudly recite our phone numbers throughout our early elementary years. And most of us from that generation will not forget those important numbers decades later.

telephone exchange name or central office name was a distinguishing and memorable name assigned to a central office. It identified the switching system to which a telephone was connected. Each central office served a maximum of 10,000 subscriber lines identified by the last four digits of the telephone number. Areas or cities with more subscribers were served by multiple central offices, possibly hosted in the same building.

WBEZ offers a picture of a Chicago phone book of all the exchanges in the 1950’s and 1960’s. There were specific exchanges for Police and fire since a 911 emergency number did not exist. It was PO for police as well as FI for fire followed by various numbers outlining specific communities. Phones numbers surrounding Midway airport started with Midway 3 or had to do with the airport itself. But some were just names that did not refer to any area and were actually used in other US cities.